Mr A.T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London, to Lt Col W.R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 86 LONDON, 4 April 1939


In continuation of my telegram No. 811, the First Lord [2] today made the following statement available. (Begins) ‘Secret. In our view, it is considered unlikely that Japan will take any precipitate action on the outbreak of hostilities in Europe owing to- (a) the necessity for consolidating her position in China before entering upon further commitments;

(b) the possibility of becoming involved with the U.S.S.R.;

(c) the desirability of estimating the reactions of other major naval powers.

2. Should Japan nevertheless intervene at an early stage in hostilities, three alternative strategical courses of action vis-a-vis Australia are open to her:

(a) to refrain from all attack, (b) to limit her attacks to raids, (c) to attempt major operations.

3. Paragraph 2(a). While it is unlikely that Australia will remain free from all forms of attack, the great distance apart of the two countries makes it improbable that attacks could materialise until Japan had organised intermediate temporary anchorages for fuelling purposes and had organised supplies.

4. Paragraph 2(b). Nevertheless, the possibilities of early raids by Japanese naval forces cannot entirely be excluded. Australian local defences are in general designed to counter a scale attack of this nature up to and including raids by cruisers.

5. Paragraph 2(c). A major operation requires great preparation and the establishment of an intermediate base or bases in the south-west Pacific Ocean before it could be launched. We should therefore receive warning of any such intention, sufficient to enable us to despatch a fleet to the Far East. A fleet based on Singapore would endanger the long and vulnerable lines of communications of a Japanese expedition against Australia, and it is most improbable that the Japanese, taking this fact into consideration, would ever embark on such an operation.

6. It is our full intention to despatch to the Far East a fleet of sufficient strength to make the position of any Japanese major expedition precarious. The importance of the early arrival of our fleet in the Far East is fully realised. Its arrival will serve both to consolidate our position in this area and to act as a deterrent to Japan.’ (ends)



1 Document 66.

2 Lord Stanhope.


[AA: A981, DEFENCE 59, i]